The Cynics Corner


"Rogue Planet"

by David E. Sluss

24 March 2002

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: "Captive Pursuit" meets "The Man Trap" in a dull, scientifically ludicrous, and entirely predictable outing.


LAUGH LINE OF THE WEEK: Archer: "Have you ever known me to do anything foolish?" You want that chronologically or in order of severity?

CONTRIVANCE OF THE WEEK: It is obvious to the viewer what Archer's "mysterious woman" really is pretty early on, and his search for her drags on interminably. Why? Because the alien shape-shifter, who can scan Archer's mind for any memory and can appear as anything, chooses a character that requires her to be elusive. What the hell? Doesn't it need Archer's help? How about choosing an image that doesn't need to run away in order to be convincing and interesting enough to Archer? It could have been worse, I suppose (e.g. "Thank you for taking my father's form, so I can tell him a made it to the stars!"), but the notion that Archer would be so moved by an image from his childhood imaginings makes him seem like a simpleton.

WEIRD SCIENCE OF THE WEEK: You have to wonder why it was necessary for the planet in this episode to be a rogue. It's as if someone on the staff read an article about "rogue planets" in Highlights for Children and decided to build an episode around the cool-sounding notion. T'Pol even reads the definition to Archer, who presumably went to space school and wouldn't need to have it explained: "It's a rogue: A planet that's broken out of its orbit. Can you spell 'orbit?'" If this had been a standard planet in a star system, the show would have merely been plodding and obvious, but instead the episode is absurd as well. A lush, tropical forest growing on a planet with no sunlight, where no photosynthesis is possible? A planet sufficiently warmed by "volcanic gases" so as to be a comfortable temperature, but whose atmosphere is not completely toxic? That's bunkum, no two ways about it, and there's no good reason for it that I can see.

WEIRD SCIENCE OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: Star Trek Science is used to resolve the situation on the planet, as Phlox produces a magic substance that saves the day. The use of Star Trek Science as a crutch, something Enterprise has generally avoided, is distressing enough, but this time the "science" strikes me as a bit more suspect than usual. After lying about the wraiths for days, the Eska, apparently lubricated by booze and made more garrulous as a result, fess up about the true nature of their quarry, and one of the hunters reveals that they scan for an unnamed chemical that the wraiths secrete when frightened. On the Enterprise, Phlox has a sample of Cellular Residue from one of the creatures and uses it to devise a masking agent that prevents the hunters from detecting the chemical. But wait: The hunters never said what chemical they scan for, and the Cellular Residue presumably contains a lot of chemicals. So how could Phlox have known what to mask? Did he say "Boo!" to the Petri dish and see what came out?

NEW TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: One of the least impressive pieces of technology we've seen in Enterprise to date has to be Starfleet's night vision goggles -- excuse me -- goggle. Apparently cannibalized from old Borg costumes, the single-eyepiece design, granting the user night vision in only one eye, would seem to me to render the devices so disorienting as to be nearly useless. And I guess it's redshirt time if a threat happens to approach from the left. It gets even stranger when Reed, whose near-death experience in "Shuttlepod One" has apparently prompted him to stop hiding his true self -- i.e. an arrogant prick -- from captain and crew, marvels at the Eska's night vision goggles, which can scan infrared. Come on: That capability exists today!

GOOD SPORTS OF THE WEEK: About the only pleasant surprise in this episode was the unexpectedly three-dimensional portrayal of the Eska. Some of it is attributable to unusually good casting of the guest stars, but it's also a reflection of writing that mostly avoided stock "Surly Forehead Aliens attacking the crew" characterization, even if some cliches, such as the drunken braggadocio of the hunters and the leader's "Them varmints got my poppa, and now I'm gonna git them" motivation, slipped through. Indeed, the episode may have erred slightly on the side of not making the Eska surly enough. It was clear that they knew Archer had sabotaged their hunting grounds somehow, but they seemed to take it pretty well. "But, hey, we still have beer!"

SOCIETAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Archer tells the Eska hunters that humans gave up hunting "over a hundred years ago." You could see that coming a mile away, of course, because Star Trek humans naturally are advanced beyond the need to be beer-swilling rednecks with guns like the Eska, but the timeframe is curious. "Over a hundred years ago" would be pre-First Contact and before Earth had recovered from World War III. Even in the Post-Atomic Horror, I suppose there was still a McDonalds in every settlement, and no need to hunt wild animals...

Previous: "Fusion"
Next: "Acquisition"
NEXT WEEK: Golden shower fetishists, rejoice, because the Powers That Be are about to piss in your face again with a senseless and continuity-warping appearance by the Ferengi. Drink up!



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This review is copyright 2002 David E. Sluss
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